For more than four decades, Shujaat Khan has been recognized as one of the foremost sitar masters of Hindustani classical music. On Friday, October 7 at 7:00 p.m., Khan will complete a week-long residency as Dr. Sambhi’s Visiting Artist at the Herb Alpert UCLA School of Music with a free public concert at Schoenberg Hall.
Shujaat Khan’s artistry brought him worldwide fame. He played to sold-out houses on several continents. His historic discography has over 100 titles and enjoys a large popular audience. Many of his albums set the benchmark for recordings in their respective fields. His collaboration with Persian artist Kayhan Kalhor in 2004 produced the Grammy nominated album The rain.
“Shujaat Khan is one of the all-time greats of Hindustani classical music,” said Anna Morcom, holder of the Mohindar Brar Sambhi Chair of Indian Music. “We are fortunate that the Sambhi Foundation has provided the funding to bring such important artists to UCLA.”
Khan comes from Imdad Khan gharana. Gharanas are stylistic schools or lineages, which have been passed down through families and master-to-disciple relationships. The Imdad Khan gharana dates back seven generations to Imdad Khan (1848-1920) and is one of the most influential sitar gharanas. Shujaat Khan began learning the sitar at the age of three as a disciple of his father, the legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan (1928-2004).
Khan’s pedigree and training are indisputable. But that’s not what really sets it apart. “My greatest achievement is being able to establish my own identity as Shujaat Khan among my audience around the world,” Khan said. The Global Indian.
Khan’s distinctiveness as a performer has been defined in part by his adherence to gayaki ang, a style of sitar playing that seeks to emulate the intricacies of the human voice. He often sings when he performs, a rarity among sitar maestros, and emblematic of what Khan calls “pure gayaki ang”. His performances have been praised not only for their virtuosity, but also for their breadth, depth, sensitivity and warmth.
Khan may be grateful for the enthusiastic reception he has received, but does not want to rest on his laurels.
“Things like nominations and awards are exciting, fleeting things,” Khan said. Hindustan time in 2007. “They are not enough for me to become complacent. Musical creation must continue.
Khan was shown to be restless, always experimenting with new styles and types of music. Along with her curiosity comes a penchant for taking risks. He recorded popular and folk music as well as classical music and explored the history of the sitar and its Silk Road background. His recent artistic collaboration with Iranian-American singer Katayoun Goudarzi in 2021 produced the album This palea musical interpretation of the poems of the 13th century Persian poet, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.
“Shujaat Khan Sahib’s music and collaborations are world-class, and he is also the finest example of pure gayaki ang,” said Rahul Neuman, co-director of Ensemble Music of India at UCLA. “He will bring with him a wealth of experience in one of the great gharanas, as well as his own innovations. It’s one of the reasons we’re so lucky to have him in residence.
In addition to his concert at Schoenberg Hall, Khan’s residency will include a masterclass and visits to academic and instrumental classes on Indian music during his week-long stay. UCLA students will have the opportunity to learn from a world-class sitarist. Neuman understands how important this can be.
“When I was a student at the University of Washington, Shujaat Khan came in as a guest artist and I studied sitar with him,” Neuman said. “I started to really appreciate Indian classical music; it opened a musical world to me. As famous as he is, he is very generous as a teacher and I am delighted that the students have the opportunity to learn from him.
The Music of India ensemble is housed in the Department of Ethnomusicology and is open to any student who wishes to enroll in the course. Enrollment isn’t limited to music majors, and Neuman was quick to point out how students from across UCLA — such as social sciences and humanities — participated in the set. It has proven to be welcoming and popular, and is oversubscribed in most years.
“We really hope to expand the program,” Morcom said. “And certainly having Shujaat Khan here for an artistic residency will increase our visibility.”